Wait for the other shoe to drop

Wait for the other shoe to drop is an American idiom. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech often use descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, bite the bullet, beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. It is possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiom wait for the other shoe to drop, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To wait for the other shoe to drop means to wait for something inevitable. For instance, a disgruntled wife may move out of her house, and her friends may wait to see if she files for divorce, or wait for the other shoe to drop. Filing for divorce is a natural next step for someone who leaves her spouse. To wait for the other shoe to drop may also mean to wait to see what someone else will do before committing oneself to a certain action or plan. For instance, a company may lay off its sales force. The rest of the employees may wait to see what the company’s next step will be, or wait for the other shoe to drop, before they decide whether to seek new employment. The phrase wait for the other shoe to drop became popular at the turn of the twentieth century, and originated in New York tenements. Tenements were usually poorly constructed, crowded apartment buildings. A resident could certainly hear his upstairs neighbor dropping his shoes on the floor as he took them off at night–first one, then the other. Related phrases are waits for the other shoe to drop, waited for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the other shoe to drop.


So one spends the benignly bland first hour of the film waiting patiently for the other shoe to drop. (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Often in relationships, we are waiting for the other shoe to drop. (Atwood Magazine)

“My heart is constantly pounding, just kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop,” Hudson said—meaning, she’s dreading the day her mother gets sicker and dies. (The Atlantic Magazine)

Any faltering in employment would be the other shoe to drop, given signs “of protracted weakness in investment spending, manufacturing production, and exports” that have emerged already. (Barron’s)

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